Holiday on the Boulevard highlights Central City _lowres

Advocate file photo by ROBERTA GROVE -- Luther Gray carries on the rich tradition of the drum circle in Congo Square. His group, the Conqo Square Preservation Society, performed on Sunday during Treme Fest.

The Ashé Cultural Arts Center opens its doors Friday and Saturday for Holiday on the Boulevard, creating a family-friendly festival and marketplace in Central City. The festival, at 1724 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., will bring vendors, musicians, authors, artists and the community together for a day meant to highlight the talents of locals and provide an opportunity for people to shop within their community.

“Our mission for Holiday on the Boulevard is for people to shop within their communities,” said Luther Gray, acclaimed musician and Ashé’s cultural and community programs coordinator.

“So we have artists, food vendors, jewelry, people with clothing, different arts, beauty products, all the things like that. The idea is to shop within the community, to spend our money within the black community. The purpose is to highlight the talent in Central City and New Orleans, as well.”

Friday offers the Kwanzaa demonstration and imagination tour, which teaches the youth of the community about the history of the Kwanzaa tradition, its meaning and the importance of the lighting of the Kinara. The imagination tour, an opportunity for the youth to explore the continent of Africa, follows this.

Some of the children will become dancers, led by Mama Jamilah, and others will drum with Gray and Bamboula 2000.

But what is unique this year is the luncheon at noon on Friday. Open to the public, the luncheon will be an opportunity for attendees to learn about what Ashé has been up to for the past year. After the meal, attendees will be able to tour Ashé’s newest addition, the Ashé Powerhouse.

“Part of the luncheon will be a description of what we’ve accomplished over the year,” Gray confirmed, “but it will also be tours of our new space, which is on the corner of Baronne and Felicity. It’s a new state-of-the-art performance space with an art gallery that’s going to have a grand opening in January.”

This year has another important focus — the vendors.

“We’re putting more emphasis on the vendors themselves,” Gray said, “because in the past we’ve had so many performances (where) people sit down and watch the shows and don’t really interact with the vendors. So this year we’re spacing things out and giving more time for the vendors to really create a marketplace.”

On Saturday at noon, the Holiday Marketplace opens and vendors will be showing off holiday gift ideas and goodies, including handmade jewelry and clothes from Africa, India and the Caribbean.

If you’re on the fence about the clothing, wait until 5:30 p.m., when Ashé will host a fashion show. Stick around and you might recognize one of the models — they’re all members of the community.

“The fashion show will highlight and feature some of these fashions and the models from the community,” Gray said.

“The clothes are full-sized, so it’s not like models who are New York runway models, but real members of our community. We have jewelry from Africa, clothes from Africa, India, from the Caribbean, and also vendors will accentuate the fashion show with handbags, jewelry and hats — stuff like that.”

Another important feature of the event is the launch of Topbox’s new app at 1 p.m. Topbox is an online service that allows people to sign up and order fresh food, such as meat, fruit and vegetables. Ashé is a pickup spot for participants.

There also will be a mini job fair focusing on temporary work, staged by the city of New Orleans.

So whether you’ve worked up an appetite, are looking for gifts, are curious or even need some short-term work, Holiday on the Boulevard is a New Orleans tradition that might have just what you’re looking for.

Holiday on the Boulevard

Friday, Dec. 12

10 a.m.: Kwanzaa demonstration and imagination tour

Noon: Open house and luncheon

Tour of Ashé Powerhouse (following the luncheon)

Saturday, Dec. 13

Noon: Holiday marketplace opens

Noon: Performance: Ashé’s Kuumba Institute Youth Program

12:30 p.m.: Central City Festival Dance Contest winners:

Central City Dance Team, Dixie Dawlins, Unique

Featured dance artist: J.C. Styles Spoken Word

1 p.m.: Book signings with authors Freddi Evans, Keith W. Medley, Mona Lisa Saloy and José Torres-Tama

Spoken Word

3:30 p.m.: Dale Baxter

Spoken Word

4:30 p.m.: Lloyd Daly & The Daly Tymes

5:30 p.m.: Diaspora Boutique’s Fashion Show

Spoken Word

7 p.m.: Bamboula 2000

WHERE: Ashé Cultural Arts Center, 1724 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.

COST: Free INFO: (504) 569-9070;